Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday asked the world community to treat the Covid-19 vaccine as a "global public good" and urged the United Nations to ensure its timely availability to all countries at a time.
"We hope that the Covid-19 vaccine will soon be available in the world. It's imperative to treat the vaccine as a 'global public good'. We need to ensure the timely availability of this vaccine to all countries at the same time," she said.
The PM made the plea while virtually addressing the general debate at the 75th United Nations General Assembly in Bangla like she did in previous years following the footsteps of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Hasina said if Bangladesh is provided with the technical know-how and patents, the country's pharmaceutical industry has the capacity to go for vaccine production on a mass scale.
She said the pandemic is a stark reminder that the fate of the human being is interconnected and that "no one is secured until everyone is secured".
The premier also said efforts to contain the pandemic and achieve Agenda 2030 have to go hand-in-hand. "Bangladesh's second voluntary national review [VNR] presented this year shows that we're well on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals."
She mentioned that the pandemic to a large extent kept all confined to their homes. Consequently, economic activities were greatly hampered along with the healthcare system.
Bangladesh achieved a GDP growth rate of 8.2 percent in 2018-2019 fiscal year. But the Covid-19 pandemic has impeded its economic progress, the PM added.
Hasina said the Bangladesh government announced a 31-point directive soon after the detection of the first Covid-19 cases in the country. It launched vigorous awareness campaigns and distributed personal protective kits aiming to contain the spread of the virus. These resulted in containment of seasonal diseases which are otherwise common in the country.
She said the government quickly identified the impending challenges of Bangladesh's financial sector and announced 21 stimulus packages.
Special arrangements have been made for keeping the industries running and for proper marketing of agricultural products and industrial outputs in full compliance with health guidelines, the PM said. "Consequently, our health sector and economy are still comparatively in better shape."
Despite the Covid-induced stagnation in global industrial outputs, Bangladesh's GDP has registered a growth rate of 5.24 percent which is expected to be 7 percent in the next fiscal year.
Hasina said the government is trying hard to transform Bangladesh into a middle-income country by 2021, attain the SDGs by 2030, a developed country by 2041 and a prosperous Delta by 2100.
It is also crucial that graduating LDCs and recently graduated ones are accorded scaled-up international support and incentive packages in the transition and post-transition phases to minimise the pandemic-triggered impediments, she observed.
Regarding migrant workers, the PM said they are the frontline contributors to the economies of their host and home countries alike. Many of them have lost their jobs during the pandemic while many have been sent back home.
"We've allocated $361 million for the returnee migrant workers. It is critical to help them regain employment in the post-Covid job market. I urge the international community and migrant-receiving countries to treat migrant workers fairly and with empathy," she said.
COMMITMENT TO PEACE
Hasina said Bangladesh is the world's largest troops and police contributing country to the UN peacekeeping missions. "Our peacekeepers are putting their lives on the line to secure and sustain peace in conflict-ravaged countries. International community must ensure their safety and security."
She also said this year all are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of the Women, Peace and Security Agenda. "As one of its original proponents, we call for due recognition of women's role in peace and security. We've already formulated a national action plan in this regard."
Bangladesh's unflinching commitment to peace has resulted in the adoption of a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and violent extremism. National efforts have to be complemented by international cooperation to curb this menace, she added.
Talking about climate-vulnerable countries, Hasina said the pandemic is worsening the pre-existing vulnerabilities of these countries.
She said, "We are dealing with the dual impact of recent floods and the Cyclone Amphan even during the pandemic. As the current president of the CVF and the V-20 Group of Ministers of Finance, Bangladesh would lead the Forum to map out a sustainable and climate-resilient pathway out of the crisis. We also stand ready to contribute to securing a constructive and productive outcome in the Glasgow COP."
The premier said the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action has helped the international community come a long way to ensure gender equality. "As we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Declaration, we need to strengthen our resolve and mutual cooperation to address all the critical areas of concern."
In Bangladesh, she said, the government has closed 72.6 percent of the overall gender gap. Women's contribution remains at the core of its national development. They are also at the forefront of pandemic response and recovery efforts.
Talking about genocide, Hasina said Bangladesh's painful experience and the worst form of genocide and crimes against humanity that the nation had to endure during its struggle for independence motivated it to support the legitimate cause of the Palestinian people.
The premier said Bangladesh provided temporary shelter to over 1.1 million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals. More than three years have elapsed. Regrettably, not a single Rohingya could be repatriated.
"The problem was created by Myanmar and its solution must be found in Myanmar. I request the international community to play a more effective role for a solution to the crisis."
Hasina said the Covid-19 pandemic has indeed aggravated existing global challenges. It has also reinforced the indispensability of multilateralism.
She also said on the 75th anniversary of the UN, the commitment to multilateralism as embodied in the UN Charter remains unflinching.
"At the national level, despite numerous challenges, we're committed to upholding the values of multilateralism and working towards building a 'Shonar Bangla' free of poverty and exploitation based on democratic principles with full enjoyment of human rights, as envisioned by the Father of our Nation. On the birth centenary of our Father of the Nation, this is our pledge to our nation and to the world," she said.